Bati Bleki, January 20th, 2014

THE SLUMBERING MOSTROSITY. Aruba always attracts large numbers of colorful and crazy characters among them Sergio Gallero, a man more famous for his flops than his successes.  Did you see the inflatable plastic monster lying on his side, occasionally wriggling his sausage-toes, in the sandy lot adjacent to the Palm Beach Plaza Mall? It must be the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. I found out it’s a maze, an activity, designed the scare your pants off for the price of admission. Sergio is the man behind the brilliant idea of introducing the island to the Sleeping Giant, on his world tour debut, heading into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest inflatable under the sun, also the ugliest. Sergio first burst onto the island’s stage with a spoon bending psychic, which he booked into the Tropicana Showroom. Alas, audiences did not materialize. Then he created a spook house on the Palm Beach Road, a truly fabulously haunted Halloween Mansion, which fizzled by the end of October. His next important venture, on a larger disaster scale: Morgan’s Island, with Maiky Croes, which I admit, had a number of entertaining aspects, if you can live with the life-threatening imperfections of the water slides. Then I understand he leased three food outlets at the Palm Beach Plaza Mall which he subleased and consequently closed. He also prepared to open a men’s fashion boutique which never got off the ground. In recent months, friends have told me that his latest adventure included an organizational role in the MEP electoral campaign. Well, you know how that turned out, and now you also know why! Last week, the Sleeping Monstrosity inflated and deflated of Palm Beach, inviting people with too much time, and too much money to crawl in, through the eye.  I told him he was crazy, and he told me he likes it like that!

RUMOR HAS IT. I hear that following RIU’s acquisition of the Westin Resort & Casino Aruba, Sandals Resorts, another giant all inclusive company already operating mass vacation machines in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Grenada, St. Lucia, Barbados and Antigua is looking to buy the Occidental Grand Aruba or even the Radisson Aruba Resort Casino & Spa. More likely the Occidental Grand Aruba. So the Palm Beach strip will be threatened with another business which keeps everything in-house, without sharing. Definitely contrary to our tourism’s founding fathers vision of spreading the wealth to the locals, and putting our tax florins to “what’s good for Aruba” use.

NEW BROOM. Retired hotelier Ed Malone, the former General Manager at Gold Coast Resort & Residential Community, recently sent a quick update to those who have not heard yet, that he will be relocating this week to NYC for a work assignment on behalf of the Aruba Tourism Authority as Interim Area Director for North America. He is looking forward to connecting with all his friends in the New York, NJ and Northeast areas, he says, once he’s settled. He will be living in Manhattan and working out of the ATA’s New Jersey office in Syracuse. Needless to say, it’s a big adjustment – after retiring from hospitality, Ed bought a share in Super Rich Car Wash on Palm Beach, and devoted his energy to growing that business. In his new role he will surely be presented with interesting and valuable challenges. Neville Every, the man he is replacing, was hailed as the Messiah two years ago when he was hired, from Philips Latin America. Apparently, Neville decided to move on to other opportunities. Consequently, Ed was asked to go the NJ office in the interim to take over the responsibilities plus undertake some additional projects relative to expanding further the Aruba brand in the North American market. The job of heading Aruba’s marketing efforts in the US is layered and complex, reaching deep and far into many areas of expertise. Ed is certainly much better equipped to deal with all the tentacles of this ever-changing enterprise, than the then new-comer and outsider Neville, who was thrown into the mix sink or swim.

CAUTIONARY TALE. Arubianas, a local company producing beautiful, yet not very durable flip flops was recently involved in a court case of the brand Havaianas against them. The representatives of the Havaianas brand in the Caribbean, under the Boolchand flag, claimed that Arubianas were infringing on their brand and on their market share. Since Arubianas lost the case, the company had to sadly dispose of over 28 thousand pairs of Aruban flora & fauna flip flops, for a fraction of what they were worth. I loved the Arubianas flip flops, and bought many of them as gifts for family members and friends – that’s how I found out they didn’t last long. I hope the company re-launches, with a completely different logo-look so that the Aruban Flag, the Shoco and Juwana images, may have another sustainable opportunity. The story is sad because the idea was great yet the execution was not original enough. Make sure when you come up with a brilliant idea, that you don’t look at an existing brand for inspiration!  Get in touch with Eva Wever or George Arends for some Arubianas Flip Flops, for practically nothing.

O RESTAURANT AT PASEO HERENCIA. We visited O Restaurant at Paseo Herencia and listened to Edjean Semeleer, live on stage, over a few sips. Move over Frank Sinatra! Edjean explained he recently decided to take over the restaurant in collaboration with bright and multi-tasking Arthur Loefstok, in order to find a home-stage for his singing talent and an outlet for his entrepreneurial spirit. The partners called the restaurant by that name O in anticipation of patrons’ reaction when the plate or check were presented, Oh, it looks good, Oh, it’s reasonable – the sound resulting from a combination of surprise and relief! This last weekend O hosted a party for the Guardian Group Aruba, the former Fatum, decorated by Fernando Mansur. The large double-decker at Paseo Herencia could be very successful as a banquet facility, a wedding party venue, or an all-day bingo hall. We wish the partners success!